IBM Introduces Linux on pSeries

Big Blue says customers can realize substantial cost savings over AIX

IBM Corp. last week announced plans to ship a new pSeries server outfitted with the Linux operating system. IBM’s p630—a special version of its standard AIX-based p630 server—supports from one to four processors and can be segmented into as many as four logical partitions.

McGaughan, IBM director of eServer marketing, notes that the special edition p630 is the first Linux-equipped pSeries system that Big Blue has sold alongside its traditional AIX fare. “One of the major tenets of the whole pSeries strategy is to have two operating systems that we support. Certainly, Linux is the secondary one, our history is Unix, which is AIX, but this is the first time we’ve offered a [pSeries] system specifically to support Linux.”

The p630 is available as a desk-side or rack-mount server, and supports one-, two-, and four-way SMP configurations. It’s designed to run a 64-bit edition of SuSE Linux, which, McGaughan points out, customers can acquire at a much lower price point than AIX. The result, he suggests, is that customers who opt for Linux-on-the-p630 can in some cases realize substantial cost savings compared with the same server hardware hosting AIX. “[On the] two-way configuration, that is a 27 percent savings over the standard list price of that system. The customer can add more disk and more memory—these are just the starting points. We make it very easy for them to order additional memory and I/O adapters.”

IBM has offered support for Linux on its pSeries servers for some time now. In addition, Big Blue supports up to 31 Linux partitions on its iSeries systems, which are based on the same Power 4 processor that drives the pSeries.

McGaughan anticipates that early adoption for Linux on pSeries will be among software vendors and companies with high-performance computing (HPC) environments. “The interesting thing is that we believe that we have a fairly good alternative [for HPC], especially with the Power4. We feel that the HPC environment is a natural for early adopters of 64-bit Linux.”

IBM indicates that Linux running on the p630 achieves about the same performance as AIX for file serving implementations. For Web serving, Big Blue says AIX retains a more substantial performance advantage over Linux.

In addition, McGaughan believes that Linux on the pSeries could be an attractive alternative for customers evaluating new Unix systems from other vendors or those considering consolidating workloads from other Unix operating systems. “If you take the RX5670, [an Itanium-based server from Hewlett-Packard Co.], customers can save up to 40 percent with the p630.”

HP’s RX5670 supports Windows 2000 Advanced Server and HP-UX 11i, in addition to Linux.

McGaughan is quick to point out that the arrival of IBM’s first dedicated pSeries Linux server by no means portends the demise of AIX. “Certainly, Unix and high-performance computing, especially with the clustering capabilities, are still our primary thrusts. We straddle both and we will continue to do so.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.